Monday, December 14, 2009

In Which I Try To Keep Warm And Nearly Freeze To Death

The Earth had once again settled itself into that arc on its trip around the sun wherein our access to light is limited and our access to cold is seemingly bottomless. Winters in New England are mean. It's no wonder the Puritans chose to settle here. Winter, like Life, is meant to be suffered through. Geese have enough common sense to fly south. Sometimes it's a wonder the humans have been able to climb so far up the food chain.

The place where I live is a throwback to days when a bath was a weekly event, and one was lucky to know someone who owned a horse. Although moderate steps have been taken to update the livability of my apartment building, things are sometimes woefully inadequate. Each room, for instance, has only one electrical outlet, which, until very recently, was wired through a fusebox in the basement. If you were to overload a circuit, a fuse would blow, and it was up to you to have a surplus on hand to replace it. Space heaters, then, were pretty much out of the question. Turning one on would quickly overwhelm the meager abilities of the electrical system and leave you in the dark and cold.

Why would I need a space heater to begin with? Interesting question. The only supplies for warmth are placed at either end of the apartment. The stove in the kitchen doubles as a gas heater, and on the front side, a small heater is wired into the wall in the living room. No heat in the bedrooms. The bathroom is placed exactly in the middle of and very far from the two sources of warmth. In the deep dark depths of January, to end a nice hot shower is to start a race against hypothermia, as those droplets left on the skin drain body heat at an alarming rate.

But we humans are a creative bunch, aren't we? It is through our ingenuity and resourcefulness that we have been able to thrive in places like this. We've invented weaving to turn shorn wool into warm blankets, but even those laurels were not enough for us to rest upon. We've sent men to the moon. Surely we can outsmart something as simple as a little bit of cold air.

This is my ill fated attempt at doing just that.

At some point, while wrapped up in sweaters and furry hats, I noticed that my room, simply by virtue of having had my body in it, was subtly warmer than other parts of the apartment.

If temperature in a small space was raised by my presence, than a smaller space would be that much warmer, right?

I dug my cheap pup tent out from the closet, set it up on my bed, and covered it with heavy blankets. Patting myself on the back, I pulled my alarm clock inside, layered blankets on the floor of the tent, and closed up the flap, eager to spend a toasty evening with my great idea.

Perhaps it worked a little differently than I had anticipated. I awoke gasping for breath. I seemed to be sweating yet was cold. So very cold. The moisture from my breath had condensed on the walls of the tent into droplets which fell onto me and my bedclothes, and ran down the walls onto the floor of my cave.

I fought through all the blankets and wrestled with the zipper, spilling out onto the cold floor of my bedroom, soaking wet and gulping down as much fresh air as I could.

Apparently I hadn't thought it all the way through. The whole process of air circulation and condensation hadn't occurred to me until I awoke, suffocating and hypothermic.

Way to go, genius.